5 Clever, Minimalist Manicures To Try

The minimalist manicure is here to stay. Call it the antidote to coffin nails or the glamorous, sometimes OTT, blinged-out talons seen on celebrities. This quirky and understated style plays with negative space, spareness and subtle details to create nails that are witty, playful but also fashion-forward.

The beauty of these nail designs are that they can even be attempted at home with the right tools, materials and a steady hand. Because they work on a plain or bare base, they are also more forgiving when they grow out, and the relatively simple patterns can actually be accomplished whether it’s by you or friend. Also their non-crazy palette means they can match with almost any outfit. Here are five manicures we love.

Random Pattern

Image from @nail_unistella.
Image from @nail_unistella.

This look (and the one in the main picture) was created by Park Eunkyung, the influential Korean nail artist behind Unistella, a brand that creates unique nail jewellery like nail rings. Combining a fresh, matte red nail polish with bare nails, there’s a certain beauty to the calculated imbalance of this design. Some nails can bear just a swipe of colour, while others can be solidly painted. If you’re attempting this at home, keep all your nails neatly trimmed, cleaned and buffed so that your lacquer-less ones still look presentable.

Block Party

Image from @aliciatnails
Image from @aliciatnails

Soft blocks of colour in pastel hues like pale blue, baby pink or coral are a subtle detail to an otherwise unadorned nail. We love the manicures by New York-based manicurist Alicia Torello as they are inventive, fun, but never OTT. If you love embellishment, but don’t want anything too precious or delicate, opt for metallic details like studs, skinny tubes or ball bearings. Use a small brush to apply good quality nail glue on the back of each piece of nail jewellery, press onto the surface with a small tweezer to set it in place, and allow it to dry. Finish off with at least two coats of topcoat to seal the embellishment.

Dots and strips

Image from @chelseaqueen

This look by Los Angeles-based nail artist Chelsea King was created for a shoot. King quipped on her Instagram that she was still all about the negative space manicure (a trend that has persisted for years). If you want a similar look, pick three complementary colours and paint on a combination of strips, block shapes and dots (you’ll need a ball-tipped tool for that). Combinations to try? Shades of purple and mauve or the classic, primary trio of red, yellow and blue.

Not-So-Basic French

Image from @misspopnails
Image from @misspopnails

Is the French manicure making a comeback? Perhaps so, with top nail artists like Tom Bachik doing them on his clients. Miss Pop a NYC nail artist created this look using the black and white combination of Essie Blanc (a shade described as being perfect for French manicures) and Deborah Lippmann’s Fade to Black. Best tried on slightly longer, oval-shaped nails for that almost egg-shaped effect — we love the quirkiness and the graphic contrast.

Squiggles

If you fancy yourself a bit of an artist, these Matisse like sketches (best done with a nail art pen) are a creative way to deck out your nails. These were created by Brooklyn-based Eda and Anna Levenson. In general, black will provide the biggest contrast against a plain nail, but in order for it to not look like random smudges of dirt, you have to keep your lines sharp and precise. Painting it on with a fine-tipped brush also works, but you’ll need a steady hand and plenty of patience.